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Alkan: Esquissess / Steven Osborne

Album Summary

>Alkan, Charles-Valentin : Esquisses (48) for Piano, Op. 63
Performer Composer

Notes & Reviews:

"While Alkan's sketchbook may not encompass the full flights of bravura evidenced in his larger pianistic ventures, it displays some of his most startling explorations alongside paragraphs of extreme simplicity, gentleness and sobriety; and the pianist embraces Alkan's extremes with sovereign technical control." ***** - Max Loppert, BBC

'A sensitivity, radiance and finesse rarely encountered from even the finest pianists... An invaluable disc' (Gramophone)

'This music needs a performer full of freedom, imagination and with great fingers, all of which describes Osborne... I knew that Osborne's latest offering would be outstanding' (Pianist)

'Osborne's playing is breathtaking' (Classic FM Magazine)

'These miniatures call for a pianist of great sensitivity, character and receptiveness to the music's diverse, perfectly crystallised moods... Osborne is just the man... This is a revelatory disc, and one to cherish' (Daily Telegraph)

'A major keyboard musician... the music rather than his ego comes first' (The Times)

'Le jeune Britannique s'en tire avec les honneurs, par une inventivité sonore de tous les instants et une musicalité attentive aux humeurs suggérées par l'harmonie, et surtout grâce à une technique brillante, qui reste le meilleur moyen de mettre en valeur la variété des formulas d'Alkan' (Diapason, France)

'Un 'must' qui complète parfaitement le riche catalogue Hyperion consacré à ce compositeur' (Répertoire, France)

'Osborne has a delightfully varied touch that brings out the character, wit and invention of these often exquisite and tantalisingly short and familiar pieces' (Inverness Courier)

'Osborne fulfils his task brilliantly on what will be one of the CD's of the year' (Liverpool Daily Post)

'Having introduced these Esquisses to us, Osborne deserves our gratitude... While they still hold material that will test the pianist, they are often sublime, requiring a performer of the utmost sensitivity, and in Osborne they find the perfect exponent' (Hi-Fi Plus)

Gramophone Classical Music Guide
Here's a superlative record of music to confound the sceptics, including the soloist himself, who, in a witty, concentrated essay, expresses his surprise at discovering Alkan's Esquisses and their journey into intimacy rather than gargantuan bravura. Not that these 48 fragments, many of them of a teasing and enigmatic brevity, could be by any other composer. Gnomic, introspective, full of odd twists and turns of phrase and expression, they invariably catch you unawares.

In 'Confidence', a Field-like innocence is countered by enough surprises to declare the composer's identity. 'Les soupirs' is so much more than a foretaste of Debussyan impressionism. 'Inflexibilité' holds the listener in a vicelike grip and the change from charm ('Petite marche villageoise') to grimness ('Morituri te salutant') is typical of Alkan's volatile yet rigorous command of the widest variety of ideas and pastiches. 'Le frisson', 'Pseudo-naïveté', 'Délire', 'Fais Dodo', 'L'homme aux sabots' - the titles predict an eccentricity that's nonetheless qualified by a formidable intellectual focus.

Osborne's performances are of a sensitivity, radiance and finesse rarely encountered from even the finest pianists. He floats the opening of 'La vision' in a magical haze or nimbus of sound, peppers the keyboard with an immaculate virtuosity in 'La staccatissimo', relishes the Norwegien tang of 'Début de quatuor' and brings a wicked frisson to 'Les diablotins', where Alkan's little devils are hustled from the field almost as if the composer had lost patience with his own grotesque creation.

Misha Donat's notes are as affectionate as they are perceptive, and Hyperion's sound is of demonstration quality. An invaluable disc, particularly for those drawn to music's byways.


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Works Details

>Alkan, Charles-Valentin : Esquisses (48) for Piano, Op. 63
  • Performer: Steven Osborne (Piano)
  • Notes: Henry Wood Hall, London, England (07/28/2002-07/30/2002)
  • Running Time: 64 min. 36 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Written: 1861